The Supreme Court of Canada struck down three provisions of the Criminal Code targeting prostitution Friday in a landmark decision.
The decision was in response to lower court rulings that struck down provisions against keeping a common bawdy house or brothel and living on the avails of prostitution. The lower courts were divided on the ban against communicating in public for the purposes of prostitution.
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The country's top court, in a unanimous decision, struck down all three provisions but kept them in place for 12 months to give Parliament time to consider whether to draft new legislation that would address the court's key concerns — while noting that the practise of trading sex for money itself is not illegal in Canada.
Here are the main points in the court's unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
1. Safety of sex workers
"Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes."
2. 'Parasitic' pimps vs. 'legitimate' bodyguards
"The purpose of the living on the avails of prostitution prohibition ... is to target pimps and the parasitic, exploitative conduct in which they engage. The law, however, punishes everyone who lives on the avails of prostitution without distinguishing between those who exploit prostitutes and those who could increase the safety and security of prostitutes, for example, legitimate drivers, managers, or bodyguards. The living on the avails provision is consequently overbroad."
3. Negative impact of public communication ban 'grossly disproportionate'
"The purpose of the communicating prohibition ... is not to eliminate street prostitution for its own sake, but to take prostitution off the streets and out of public view in order to prevent the nuisances that street prostitution can cause. The provision’s negative impact on the safety and lives of street prostitutes, who are prevented by the communicating prohibition from screening potential clients for intoxication and propensity to violence, is a grossly disproportionate response to the possibility of nuisance caused by street prostitution."